Friday, July 29, 2011

Topic: Chapter 1

For this assignment (should you choose to accept it!) you are to write the beginning of your new novel. Imagine the book, and then write the opening of the story - the first chapter (of course, you don't have to write the whole chapter, just the beginning of it - unless you WANT to, in which case, go nuts!). Your goal here is to establish the setting, the characters, anything that's going to be important to the overall story - this is the reader's first impression. They just picked up a 500-page novel; here's your chance to hook them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Went through the desert

Yeah, the lyrics say it all - "I went through the desert on a Horse with no name.." lah la la la la lah. See? Roadies never get any credit. A Horse With No Name. That's me. No recognition, no attribution, nothing.

BUT, I hear you say - that's just a metaphor! It's Symbolism.

Symbolism my shaggy... tail. That damn desert sun was HOT. And that river that flow'd made me more than sad it was dead, it damn near killed me. Then, then, after I'd hauled his sorry unprepared ass across the desert AS requested, he just turns me loose as soon as he gets where he wanted to go. No pay, just "run free!". That's a life of service for ya.

Working for musicians is a hard gig, excuse the pun. They don't think ahead and you kinda get pulled into their personal unreality. Then, suddenly you're out and looking for new ride. On the other hand, they ride you hard but they ride you light. Too skinny, most of 'em to weigh much and too spacey to pack even the basics so as long as you're good at scrounging you can have a good time. Saved a few lives in my time too - leading the lost out of the wilderness as it were.

Not bad people really.... I was actually glad to get out of the rain. It had been a long cold lonely winter and you know how that makes a hard days' night out of the whole damn year.

You gonna eat that apple?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Son of the desert

Yeshua squinted into the unforgiving sun overhead. His feet ached and his head pounded; his mouth felt dry and his hands seem to open and close of their own volition. He could feel his heart pound, a shiver of sweat running down his back and the desert wind was anything but refreshing. Through the haze of the desert heat he could make out the crowds below and immediately dropped his gaze as if to avoid eye contact even knowing there was no danger of that at this distance.

"You're stalling" came a voice from behind him.

Yeshua sighed and rolled his eyes skyward. "And you are helping not at all". He flexed his hands and ran his fingers through his beard absently pulling out a tangle. "What if I'm wrong?"

His friend stood behind him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, "It really doesn't matter at this point does it?"

"How can you say it doesn't matter? How could anything possibly matter more?! They're here because of me. They're here because...because..."

"I know," said the other man as he looked down the hillside as the crowd below. "Yeshua...I know. I know you're scared. I know you doubt. But at this point it doesn't matter. They need a messiah. And they need YOU to be that messiah."

The murmur of the crowd in the distance and the howl of the desert wind punctuated the silence of the moment. "But...but what if I'm not? Judas, what if I'm not? What if I've imagined it all? What if I've fabricated it all in a vain attempt at fulfilling the prophesies? What if I'm simply crazy?"

Judas breathed deeply and surveyed the crowds gathered below. He thought back to the man named John whom they all knew to be insane. He thought back to the hope he had seen in the eyes of the enslaved and hopeless. The spark of glory and enlightenment he had seen in the eyes of those that followed his friend and were inspired to greater things by his teachings. He cast his mind's eye back to the temples, the market place and the expulsion of the money lenders and heathens and the healing of those inflicted and without hope. And he wished desperately for his friend to be the savior of man, the lamb and the son of Yahweh. And he knew without doubt he was sending the lamb of god off to be a lamb to slaughter. "My dear friend, you're not crazy. At least not in deed and spirit. The people need a lamb of god and they need you to be that lamb. They need hope and they need a future." And the future needs a lamb to slaughter.

Yeshua stood and his body ached. His head pounded and mouth was dry. He walked to the overlook and cleared his throat. He felt dizzy as he looked down at the expectant faces as the murmur died to an overwhelming silence. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Son of the Desert Sun

Jacob cleaned his father's guns - among his many responsibilities at the homestead, that was the most important. As the eldest he had been the one who learned how to clean the rig - Ezekial tended father's stallion, Michael kept his bedroll and camp gear clean and in order, but Jacob cleaned the guns and the belt and holster they rode in.

He remembered how his father had called him over to the fire one night when Jacob was eight - seven years ago now. His father had just returned from the desert and still wore the sour smell of weeks spent under the pitiless hammering sun tracking his prey; always, before even washing himself he would tend to his guns. He had called Jacob over and Jacob had approached apprehensively - if he had come near on his own his father would have driven him off with scarce more than a baleful glare, but now his father beckoned him close with a gesture. He remembered how his father had wordlessly shown him how to clean the guns - removing the cartridges from the cylinders, breaking down the pistols, lathering and cleaning and polishing the leather holsters. When he had finished, his father had handed them to Jacob and said, "Now you." Jacob remembered the quailing nervousness in his heart as he took the guns in his hands, but he knew Father would be more angered by trepidation than mistakes, so he did his best to repeat the steps Father had taken. Father had watched him wordlessly, correcting with a grunt and a pointed direction when Jacob erred. When he finished, Father said to him, "Next time I return, you will do this," and Jacob had done it since. How many times had that been? Easily ten, twelve times a year...nearing a hundred by his estimation.

He had come to know those guns and the leather of the rig intimately by that point. When he was done the ancient scrollwork on the barrels would gleam and catch the light; the countless layers of salt and grime that had seeped into the leather of the belt had been washed clean and the carved leather shone with a deep glow.

The gun-belt had been intricately worked and carried symbols and runes that ran around the entire edge of the leather, top and bottom. On the back the belt-maker had carved a tableau; Jacob speculated that it depicted a scene from some lost tale. It showed a barn surrounded by spreading trees and standing hard by a vast pond; at least Jacob reckoned it to be vast - he had never seen a pond, so anything larger than the watering trough the horses drank from was vast to him.

Father had returned today after ten days' absence. He arrived just after sunrise; Zeke had slammed the door open and yelled that Father was back. Michael and Jacob had immediately dropped the chores they'd been attending to and readied for Father's arrival. Jacob pulled the lacquered box that held the soaps and brushes from the red cabinet in the entryway and Michael cleared a space among the breakfast dishes, preparing to clean father's camp plates and cups and the coffee pot he always carried.

Father had come through the door limping. Jacob and Michael bowed formally but instead of stopping and studying them a moment before returning the bow as he usually did, Father made a noise, a sound halfway between a gruff dismissal and a grunt of pain, and brushed past them into the bedroom and closed the door. Jacob observed that he was holding his left arm stiffly by his side. Jacob turned to see Michael and Zeke, who was standing in the doorway, both staring wide-eyed at the door Father had just shut. None spoke for a moment, then Zeke whispered,

"Come, see! There's a man on Father's horse!" He swallowed nervously, then continued, "I think he's dead!"

Desert Sun or Son (suggested by Margaret)

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Object in a Dinner Scene - 7/23/11

Sherri looked magnificent. The flimsy red dress with the deep decolletage showed off her brand-new boobs, and Max's thick gold and diamond tennis bracelet made the perfect complement to the outfit - a necklace would've just cluttered the lines of the dress and distracted from the view.

It was the best table in the restaurant, and as she sat there alone, she was aware of the glances in her direction. More men than women would stare, of course, but the women always looked longer. They wanted to see something besides a bland smile on her face. The men, though - they only took in the superficial details. Aware of the audience, Sherri refrained from checking her lipstick, smiled just enough at the waiter who had silently appeared at her elbow, and ordered an expensive Scotch whiskey, neat. It would irritate the women and the intrigue the men.

Thanking god for booze, Sherri wondered what else she could do to pass the time. The appetizer menu arrived with no prices - of course. Four perfect little choices, all beyond hip and more taste than substance. "Lemon-grass foam with oyster reduction and bacon pearls" - what the hell? At least it was amusing reading. She toyed with her left earring, making sure that the expensive little bauble was still firmly attached to her ear, before giving in to temptation.

The bracelet glinted alluringly in the discreet candlelight of the restaturant as she checked her smartphone again. Max was never on time, but always insisted that she be there waiting for him when he swept in with his financial entourage, his reporters, and that person that she always privately thought of as his Famous Groupie of the Week. She didn't care who it was anymore. Waiting for Max, looking perfect - all part of the deal.

A dinner scene

Angie loved her tea parties, especially when mommy and daddy joined her. It was a lovely spring day with a gentle breeze wafting through the canopy of the old shag bark hickory tree in the Matherson's front yard. Angie had arranged Mr. Zeek, Mrs. Fluffy and the Hoppy Twins in their favorite spots around the table. The table was set with her finest tea set and cups filled and biscuits had been served. Mommy sat to Angie's left and daddy to her right. They were being very quiet today but that kind of made sense. They had been very worried about some very bad things that had been happening lately.

They wouldn't tell her just what was going on but Angie knew something was going on. Bad people were up to something but mommy and daddy only talked about it in whispers when they thought Angie couldn't hear them. But she heard some stuff. Sometimes she overhead bits and pieces of what mommy and daddy would say and sometimes what the news man was saying on TV. There was a sickness going around and it made people do bad and crazy things!

There was some old man from the "Center for the fleas control" on TV that talked about some super bad sickness that was spreading around and the army was rounding people up who were sick. Angie saw pictures of funny looking people that looked sick and cars and buildings on fire. She saw people screaming and running and people dressed for Halloween. Then mommy turned the TV off and told her to go play in her room. But later when mommy and daddy were watching TV with the sound turned way down Angie snuck outside to go meet her friend Nancy in their super secret hideout. Nancy said she heard something about people turning into camel bulls and that the army had told everyone they had to stay home and couldn't leave. Nancy was very mad about this because they were planning on going to Six Flags that weekend and now they couldn't. Not only that but her parents had told her she wasn't allowed to leave the house cause they were afraid she would get the really bad flu that was going around. That's when Kenny showed up at their super secret hideout and he looked really sick.

Angie poured mommy more tea and brushed the fly off of mommy's forehead. Daddy's cup fell to the ground but he didn't seem to notice. He just stared off in the distance as if he was thinking about something and wasn't really interested in the tea party. Angie was a little disappointed. It had been a lot of work for her, Nancy and Kenny to get mommy and daddy to the tea party and now mommy and daddy didn't seem to be having a good time. They just sat there looking rather sad and didn't even notice when flies landed on them. Not even when they landed on their eye balls or tried to crawl inside their mouths. And it was such a perfect day for a tea party.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is this thing on?

>tap tap<


Anybody there?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A notebook

There is an apartment building in the old part of the city; decades of grime and car exhaust have darkened the beige walls and its windows are frosted with dust and filth. One side - the side open to the parking lot - is covered with overlapping layers of graffiti tags.

On the ninth floor of the building, on the northeast corner, one apartment looks out over the street with a view of the Asian market, the fire station, the defunct video shop with its doors sealed shut by rock show posters. The windows of the corner room are cleaner than all the others, inside and out. The room itself sees frequent use, although it is almost bare: one battered couch, a small end table that supports a dingy lamp, and a desk and chair that sits in the middle of the room with another lamp placed in the back center of the desktop. The desk is an old metal affair, recovered from a postal office that was being shut down. On either side of the knee space are two large and one small drawers; a wide, flat drawer above the knee space.

In the center drawer there is a notebook. It is a handmade notebook, the paper made by a man who sells his product at craft fairs; the binding is made by a friend of the papermaker. It is soft brown leather, thick and warped. The spine is held together by thick leather lacing and the notebook is held shut by another piece of lacing wrapped around a bronze button that bears a decorative image of a bear.

The first seven pages of the notebook are filled with writing of no consequence: a failed attempt at keeping a journal by the notebook's first owner. It is the writing on the fiftieth page of the notebook - exactly halfway through the book's hundred pages - that people will commit murder to see. It is the information on that page that will change the direction of history.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New topic: An object

This object is critical to your story; the success or failure of your tale depends on your reader seeing it clearly in his or her mind's eye. Make them see it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A place

Geneva of 1877

Geneva was a truly international city. Quite possibly the only city in the world that could make such a claim. Heads of state and industry called this city home and the arts and sciences thrive. Geneva was indeed a melting pot of the best, and consequently, the worst Victorian man had to offer in terms of hopes, dreams and ambitions. Theologies from theosophy to kabbalah were debated openly while some, darker and older are the stuff of whispers in secret halls and hidden temples. The origins of man were hotly debated in cafes by anthropologists while men of wealth and science design, and make designs upon, his future. Or lack thereof.

Overhead airships of all shapes and sizes ferried, mostly those of privilege or position about the city and points beyond. A labyrinthine cobweb of concrete and elevated roads connected all parts of the city allowing stunning views of the city lights from above. At street level the older cobblestone streets squeezed their way between the buildings and at times were hidden altogether where newer construction was built atop the old bones of the original Geneva. Deeper still in perpetual twilight the seedier parts of the city in effect formed another city still. One of gangs and crime but with rules of conduct of its own and not the place for the well healed.

Geneva of 1877 was a city teaming with hope and wonder lit by gaslight and electricity as well. Coaches rattled along past beautiful people on their way to opera houses and fine dining. Men of ill repute and questionable motives looked up as clockwork monorails passed overhead. Secret societies gathered behind benign-looking doors plotting and practicing ancient rituals. Heads of nations and captains of industry looked down on the city through leaded glass and decided the fate of millions. For better or worse, and most likely both, Geneva was the harbinger of the future.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A dinner scene


The table was large, and set for ten. Two appetizer plates steamed in the middle of the expanse of oak, a tower of onion rings arranged in descending radius as they climbed up a thin metal spike, and a platter of nachos slathered in day-glo cheezefood substitute that glistened greasily in the overly bright overhead lights. Three drinks stood on the table, and David wondered if passers-by would think he'd ordered them all.

He sat alone at the table, stuffed absurdly into the far corner of an enormous cherry-red naugahyde booth. Only one of the drinks was his, the "Lumberjack size!" Bud Light that sweated into a slowly gathering lake at the base of the pitcher-sized glass. No wonder this country has an obesity problem, he thought, when this kind of obscene overindulgence is sold as some kind of nasty birthright.

He checked his phone again - no texts. He could feel the heat rising on the back of his neck; he hadn't even wanted to come out tonight. Come on! they'd said, it'll be fun! He had a new Netflix disk waiting on the dining room table in his apartment, on top of a pile of unopened mail (mostly come-ons from credit card companies, undeterred by his lack of response to their last hundred and fifty entreaties to take advantage of their low low interest rates!), which was in turn crammed into a crater in the pile of washed but unfolded laundry that he'd been dressing himself from for the last week. He wasn't really sure what movie it was - he had the vague memory that it was either a French actioner that subverted the premise of an obscure Coppola film from the 70's that his film-snob friends had recommended, or a brainless boobs-n-blowup film that he'd missed in the theaters the summer before. But he'd been all set to cocoon in for the evening with it - even had a six-pack and a bomber of what his ex-girlfriend had called one of his "snooty beers" in his plastic grocery basket, along with one of the orange plate specials from the grocery store's mini-cafe. Then he'd run into Phil and Kate.

There had been much shoulder-grasping, much rolling of eyes at his attempts at begging off their invitations. Lame, they'd said; many iterations of "duuuude!' in a tone that communicated disapproval, brotherly (or in Kate's case sisterly) camaraderie, insistence, and bemusement. Finally when it was communicated that the cute redhead who'd started six months ago but whom David had yet to even wrangle an accidental introduction to would be among the revelers, he relented. He almost backed out when he dropped his groceries off at home; as he put his not-to-be-eaten-tonight dinner into the fridge (got tomorrow night covered at least!) and put the beers on the top shelf, he fought the urge to pop open the cherry Netflix envelope and just fuck it all. But he'd mentally smacked himself around a little and bustled determinedly out of the apartment.

He'd gotten to the restaurant first. It was a slow night so they seated him anyway, even though he'd said there'd be ten and he was the only one there - the hostess looked like there might be things she cared less about in this world, but not many. He sat in the corner of the booth with his jacket on, playing microgames on his smartphone and feeling humiliated every time someone walked by the table - like he'd been seated in a high chair or something.

Eventually Phil and Kate showed up - awesome, duuude! You made it! Kate bet you were going to bail and stay home with a Netflix or something! David laughed dismissively. They'd slid into the booth on either side, but only to the ends, and only long enough to order drinks from the waitress who drifted over, her voice exuding disbelief that anybody else had actually shown up. Drinks had come, trite toasts were made, and suddenly Phil noticed an old friend of his and Kate's at a table on the other side of the restaurant - be right back, dude!

That had been twenty-five minutes ago.

Topic - a dinner scene

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A place

If there had ever been a time when this world was beautiful, that memory is lost - but while no heart-wrought poems would ever be composed to the golden sunsets of Peralta or her shimmering mountains or blue seas, she had for a time borne herself with a stately majesty. Her mighty factories and vast arcologies dazzled rather than charmed; what waters still faced open sky were penned in vast cooling lakes that tempered the beating nuclear hearts of a million power plants. Where nature's green was to be found, it was arrayed in ordered rows that marched for leagues. The streets of the cities were vast caverns between towering walls that let no light reach the dusty tracks below.

But even that stark majesty was lost when Peralta was cracked.

The planet had been struck by the focused cosmological necromancy of The Enemy, harnessing intergalactic energies that struck her with the impact of an incomprehensibly mighty maelstrom. Her core had been split and her skin broken in a million million places. She was fractured like a crystal seeing sphere dropped upon the marble floor of a Hierarch's auditorium. Her cities had crumbled; the waterways spilled their boundaries and flooded down through the leagues of structure below, spewing steam into the sky to mix with the smoke from countless fires. Factories had crumbled like a child's palace of twigs, molten metals and solutions eating through the surrounding cities in waves of consuming chemical flame.

But that had been years ago. Though the nuclear embers still smoldered and glowed, steaming sores that still festered on the skin of the world, most of the fires had died. The bursar's portion of the steam pillars had faded. Poison rains had washed the soot and ashes from the ruins of the hive dwellings and into deep undercity caverns that boiled and breathed toxic vapors through the dark hidden places below.

It was here that I had been delivered, to this corpse world of Peralta. The dromon that had carried me from the shining light of the Imperator's holy presence to this place had dropped from The Path only long enough to expel my descent craft before disappearing in a shattered-mirror prism of refracted starlight.

My sentence here is the Imperator's gift to me of my life. It is also his condemnation of me to my death.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Theme: A Setting

The theme for today is to write a setting. You may have a character in the setting, but nothing is to happen: you are to focus on creating a real space in the viewer's mind.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A few seconds in first person

The bell rings as I enter the store. The girl behind the counter is terrified, I can almost feel her fear radiating off of her and past the man with his back to me. I immediately look for the signs. I see her eyes darting left to right trying hard to neither look at me, at the man in front of her or towards the back of the convenient store. The other criminal is there. I can see his reflection in the glass of the beer cooler as he stands perfectly still waiting for his partner to act. His partner, the man at the counter, is standing like a statue slightly to the left of center of the counter. This places the cash register in front of his left hand; his wallet is in his right rear pocket; this makes him right handed. That will be his gun hand of course.

I know it would be a mistake to simply walk back out as these are armatures. They would just start blazing away and in their panic kill the girl. I walk up to the counter giving the girl a reassuring smile. The gunman spins bringing his pistol - a Ruger .380 - up towards my chest. Idiot. He practically hands the gun to me. I check the pistol with my left, jab the inside of his wrist with my right and twist the gun up and away from and an upper cut with the elbow snaps his head back, a strike to the throat with the butt of the Ruger crushes the windpipe and he stumbles back and out of my way.

In the second and a half it takes the other would-be killer to come running from cover I slide the action to chamber a shot and aim. He rounds the corner 20 feet away with a scream and a misplaced shot as if he's a thug from a Tarantino movie. I put four shots into the center of mass just to be sure. His momentum and adrenalin takes him into the candy aisle and he'll be dead before his body stops moving.

The first guy scrambles to his hands and knees his eyes wide with monkey brain terror as I step between him and the camera over the counter. Two shots to the face and he goes down clutching blindly at empty air "Please no..." sputtering from his lips.

The girl is close to going into shock. I need to talk her down before...damn it. The little prick nailed me with that one wild shot. Well, at least this is a convenient segue. "Girl...Megan (according to her name tag), I need you to focus for me!"

I grab wash rag from the espresso counter and press it to the wound. "Young woman, here, hold this right here. You need to keep pressure on - listen to me girl! Focus! Ok, now, I'm going to dial 911 while you keep me from bleeding out."


A bell jingles as I pull open the heavily-barred door and I am hit with a wall of super-chilled air, almost painful after the scorching dry heat of the parking lot. I step into the store and stop for a moment to take my bearings. My shirt becomes cold where sweat has caused it to stick to my chest and back and I pluck at the fabric to pull it loose from my skin.

The store is one large room mazed into a series of corridors by dented and dingy beige metal shelving. Near the entrance glass cases have been arranged into a square with an open space in the middle for employees; the outside perimeter of the store is lined with a similar array of glass cases. A variety of goods squat on the shelves and in the cases: musical instruments, amplifiers, rings and bracelets, desktop lamps. On the right side of the store a row of dirty bicycles lean drunkenly on each other; beyond, a cluster of lawn mowers. The store is lit by banks of blazing fluorescent tubes on the ceiling; everything is evenly illuminated and looks artificial and cartoonish. There are no shadows.

I walk to the nearest counter display and pretend to look at microphones while the lone employee helps a young couple looking for an affordable (read: cheap) ring. The sweat is drying on my back and under my arms but a cold trickle runs from my hairline down my neck and into the collar of my shirt. It is not the result of the temperature.

Finally the couple commits to indecision and leaves without making a purchase. The salesman - a skeletal figure who could be in his thirties or forties, badly shaven days before - comes over to me and offers to help.

"Yes. May I look at your guns please?"